Have you ever thought about how much time you spend with your business management software? Most likely, it's more time than you spend with your coworkers or your significant other on a day-to-day basis. You might think with that level of interaction, you'd want something that's custom made for you, but what if your needs change? That custom fit is going to need some heavy alterations. Recently, a coworker of mine noticed that a company she frequently shops for kid's clothes has done something brilliant – they make winter coats and snow pants with "room to grow" panels. The sleeves and pants can be let out by a couple of inches, so they last more than one season. Wouldn't you love it if your business and customer relationship management software could do the same thing?
The First Season.
Most organizations that are making the transition from spreadsheets or simple business management software to something more industry specific look for the perfect fit. And, that makes sense in the short term. You need to find something that will suit your needs today without being overwhelming. What they often don't consider is that the perfect fit today may not be the perfect fit next year, and certainly not three, five, or ten years down the road. The question to ask potential business management software providers is, "How can I make sure this software will fit my business down the road?"
Getting it Let Out.
Perhaps your software provider will start to talk about how their solution can be customized to meet your future needs. When you hear the word "customized," you really need to get clarification. Does your software provider manage these customizations? Or do they outsource it to a third-party vendor? What are the timelines and costs associated with that customization? When the software vendor releases updates to their core system, will your custom code be supported, or will it require additional time and money to stay current? Often the decision is between ongoing, expensive updates to the custom code, or stranding yourself on a desert island of old technology. If their business management solution has to be connected to other programs, say a customer relationship management (CRM) system, do they manage updating the application programming interfaces that let business management and CRM talk to each other? Or will someone in your organization be required to source and/or manage that? And, of course, what kind of time or financial commitment is required for these customizations?
Better with Built-in Room to Grow.
Business and customer management software that is built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of your industry and can be personalized in-house don't require these types of customizations. The software does what you need it to do, right out of the box. Then, just like those snow pants I mentioned earlier, as your business continues to grow, or your user base wants to do more within the software, you can make it happen with minor tweaking. This personalization can be done at the individual user level, so you can really take a "crawl, walk, run" approach – where inexperienced users have access to basic functionality, and as they become more accustomed to the software, additional functionality can be added. Whereas, employees that have more experiencing working with software may immediately start off with more advanced functionality – yet each user is working within a single system.
When the "room to grow" is built into your software from the start, it means you or your individual users will have the capacity to make these changes and adjustments in-house. No need for a third-party vendor, and in many cases, no need for your IT department to even get involved.
Personalize-able software works the way you want it to work, because it was made knowing your business would change and grow. It's flexible, so as individual's job functions change, the software can be tweaked to enhance and support new roles and responsibilities. No need to send it out for alterations.
I'd love to hear how you integrate your business and CRM software.